Elderly Delaware Woman Dies From Heat Exposure

An elderly New Castle County woman died on Friday, marking the second-heat related death of the season in Delaware.

The death of the 87-year-old woman, who lived in the Newport area, was ruled an accident by the Medical Examiner's Office on Sunday. The office also said that heat exposure was a factor in her death.

The woman died two days after a 55-year-old New Castle County man was found unresponsive in an outdoor setting. The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death an accident and say he had an underlying medical condition. They also say heat exposure contributed to his death.

In the midst of the current heat wave, officials with Delaware’s Division of Public Health say it’s important to have an emergency plan.

“There are many scenarios you need to anticipate,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health. “Do you have a plan if you lose power?  Where can you go to cool down and be safe if you have no air-conditioning or lose power?  Do you know how to safely cool yourself or a loved one down if they are suffering from excess heat?  Do you know when to call 911?”

The Delaware Department of Health and Social services provided the following tips to prevent heat illness:

  • Do not leave a child alone in a parked car, even for a minute. Call 911 if you see a child left unattended in a vehicle.
  • Check in on seniors and individuals with disabilities to make sure they are OK.
  • Carry water with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks containing sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. (Check with a doctor before increasing fluid intake if you have epilepsy, heart, kidney or liver disease, or if you are on a fluid-restrictive diet. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.)
  • Stay indoors on the lowest floor possible to avoid the heat.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat or use an umbrella. Use sunscreen. Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself, and has been linked to skin cancer.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cold shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can lead to hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and children.

The following symptoms are signs of heat exhaustion:

  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Clammy Skin
  • Headache
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Fast Breathing
  • Irritability
  • Fainting

To prevent heat exhaustion, experts recommend moving indoors or into the shade, loosening or removing clothing, eating and drinking, taking a cool shower or bath and calling your doctor for further medical advice.

The following symptoms are signs of heatstroke(the body can no longer cool itself):

  • Flushed, hot, dry skin with no sweating
  • High body temperatures(above 13 degrees F orally)
  • Severe headache
  • Weakness, dizziness or confusion
  • Sluggishness or fatigue
  • Decreased responsiveness
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or anyone you know exhibit any of these symptoms, call 911, go indoors or in the shade, take a cool shower or bath and take fluids.

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